What jobs exist for the AVERAGE reasonably competent person over 40? Part time at SCUM (WAL)-MART? Burger flipping? Cashiering somewhere? Sales work with no guaranteed base minimum?
Yes, it is so easy to slide into poverty today. Let me share my story.
Before my divorce from my first husband, we had owned one and then another home. The second was a grand colonial, 3600 square feet on 3 floors, with a walk-up attic, central air, 2-car fieldstone garage, hot tub sunk into the back yard, a slate patio and an old iron gate around the property front and sides.
After my divorce, I lived in a spacious walkup but in a lousy part of town...it was a great place in a terrible neighborhood. Close to my work, though.
Because I got no alimony and had myself and my son to support (joint custody), I quickly got into debt with the credit cards left over from the marriage. I was overwhelmed with money problems. To give my ex credit, he helped me out financially, although under the terms of our divorce he was not obligated to do that.
In the way things seem to go when one is already behind the eight ball, I lost my good-paying management job at a university for political reasons. I retained the services of an excellent but expensive lawyer and reached a settlement with the university – I agreed not to sue them in exchange for some cash (one-third of which went to the attorney), a pink slip and COBRA. I was 49 years old and without a job or independent income.
That money from my settlement evaporated quickly. I eventually filed for bankruptcy, although working two jobs (part time nights and every weekend at a grocery store, daytime M-F as a temp with no benefits). I had to move from my apartment because the family who owned the building needed the space for a relative and the only place I could find was smaller, uglier and twice the rent.
Rick joined me in Connecticut in 2002. The landlord, who lived downstairs, had approved his moving in, but over the next months he grew hostile, refused to make repairs and eventually we moved out, again thanks to my ex who offered us the garden apartment in his house.
We were living on the bounty of my ex but eventually saved up enough to rent our own apartment. The rent is about what a reasonable mortgage on a small house would be, but we rob Peter to pay Paul every month so there is no way to put aside any money for any kind of a down payment. My job is thanks to my ex’s wife – who was and is also a friend - who hired me as a temp.
After 3 years I was added as a permanent employee when our department had the resources to fill the position permanently. Before that, I continued to work at the grocery store nights and weekends in order to have health insurance for myself. Rick had no insurance and was using the clinic here in Middletown for his medical care, which was billed on a sliding scale according to income. Rick got a decent job, but that evaporated after 4 months when the boss hired a friend of his at a higher salary and let the last two employees, of which Rick was one, go.
We are constantly in debt as Rick is not working. He was only able to find one-part-time job since losing the one he had. He is now 50, no longer able to work as an auto mechanic (his career for 20 years) because of his arthritis. He is unemployed and has been unable to find steady work. The best thing about my job right now is the excellent health insurance for both of us. The woman who hired me has moved on and my current boss is a psychotic bitch. Now that I am a few years away from being 60, my employment prospects are pretty dim. If I should lose my job, we would be out in the street - we are a hair's breadth from poverty and homelessness.
So yes, the middle class is sinking and soon we will be a society of haves and have-nots. There will no more "kinda-having, doing okay." The well-off will have privatized as much as they can and the hell with the rest of us.
If it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone. I pray it doesn't happen to YOU.
© 2008 RC deWinter